Pandya, Dhoni lift India to 281

After reeling at 87-5 at the end of 22 overs, Hardik Pandya and M.S. Dhoni came together to produce a stunning rearguard to take India to a competitive total of 281 at the end of 50 overs.

India's Hardik Pandya plays a shot during the first India-Australia One Day International (ODI) cricket match being played at the M. A. Chidhambaram stadium in Chennai.   -  PTI

 

Hardik Pandya’s last Instagram post shows him standing in front of the camera for a promo shoot, and the caption reads something like this — “Lights. Camera. And the action starts tomorrow.” The all-rounder had posted it on the social media on the eve of his team’s opening tie against Australia. Perhaps, he himself had no clue that the caption would actually come true!

At the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, which cheered out loud for its ‘Super King’ and ‘thala’, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Pandya stole the show, with a classy knock of 83 off just 66 deliveries. The innings not only brought him under the sun, on a rather gloomy and cloudy Sunday afternoon, but also helped India reach a competitive total of 281-7.

Coming lower down the order, Pandya anchored the Indian ship — which was wrecked by a certain Nathan Coulter-Nile — along with Dhoni to add a 118-run partnership for the sixth wicket. Quite surprisingly, he took the front seat — going tongs over Adam Zampa, picking up 24 runs in the 36th over — pushing Dhoni to go on the defensive. That the erstwhile India skipper played in his unusual mode is evident by the fact that his first boundary came of the 67th ball of his innings.

But then, he kept his cool and calm to pick up 79 runs off 88 balls, and guide the team to a fighting total. Pandya, on the other hand, reigned supreme, picking up his third ODI half-century.

Even after Pandya’s exit off Zampa, Dhoni paired up with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (unbeaten 32) to stitch a 72-run partnership in the later-half of the innings.

All this however, was the result of a disastrous beginning by the Indian top-order. Opting to bat first after winning the toss, India found itself in deep trouble as it lost three wickets for just 11 runs in only the sixth over, courtesy a fiery spell from Coulter-Nile.

                                                                  OPTA FACTS

 

  • Virat Kohli was dismissed for a duck, after coming into this match at the back of consecutive centuries; it was just the 12th time he has been dismissed in ODI cricket without scoring a run, with Nathan Coulter-Nile the 10 bowler to dismiss him in this fashion.
  • India has gone on to lose four of their last six ODI matches in which Virat Kohli has been dismissed for a duck, although one of their two wins in that run came against Australia (Nov 2013).
  • Hardik Pandya was India’s top run scorer with 83, his highest score in ODI cricket, and his third half century in this format for his country.
  • MS Dhoni was dismissed for just the second time in his last nine innings; as a result, Dhoni has an average of 89.6 in ODI cricket in 2017, the highest of any player to record at least five innings with the bat.
  • The last five teams to set Australia a target of 280+ in ODI cricket have gone on to win.

 

While Ajinkya Rahane, who was promoted at top of the order in Shikhar Dhawan’s absence, fell meekly for five, other top-order batters — captain Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey — failed to open their accounts, and departed in quick succession — thus adding the pressure on the team. Though Rohit Sharma (28) and Kedar Jadhav (40) tried their bit to steady the ship, their efforts were just not enough.

Struggling at 87-5 after 21.3 overs, it looked, India would find it impossible to reach a competitive total. But then, with Dhoni pairing up with the fiery young gun, things eased out.

At home in Chennai, there’s no stopping a Super King!